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Switch to Forum Live View How can I become a Gnostic?
6 years ago  ::  Aug 02, 2008 - 8:06PM #1
serpent_goddess
Posts: 5
All my life, I have struggled with issues concerning faith.  I was raised a Christian and have always felt that there was something 'more' to the faith than I was taught.  As if there was something hidden under all the stories and prayers. I've studied for years and I have found what I've been looking for in Gnosticism.  However, I do have some questions:

1.) Exactly, what is Gnostic Christianity?  How is it different than 'mainstream'?

2.) Is Sophia considered a Goddess or another Form of the Divine?

3.) What are the holidays and rites of passage in Gnosticism?

4.) How can I 'convert'?
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6 years ago  ::  Aug 11, 2008 - 8:48PM #2
Jay77
Posts: 16
1.) Exactly, what is Gnostic Christianity? How is it different than 'mainstream'?
Most Gnosticism is Christian.  That is if you mean the historical (first through fourth century) Gnosticism.  It did borrow from Judaism and Greek Philosophy, and Platoism, but is largely Christian.  There is a sect of Gnosticism that was not Christian called Heremeticism.   Gnostic Christianity shares a lot of stories and scriptures with Mainline Christianity.  It teaches that God is beyond definition and emanated the pleroma/fullness out of God's self. Sophia/Wisdom ultimately made this world and the Demiurge through a type of mistake.  The Demiurge and the archons are the principalities and powers who use the worlds systems to control humanity and to keep them ignorant of their divine nature.  Jesus was the Christos who came to show us the way back to God through knowledge of ourselves and who we are in God, and how we are to live. 

2.) Is Sophia considered a Goddess or another Form of the Divine?
She is not considered a goddess per se.  She is an Aeon, one of the emanations from God beyond all names and descriptions, and in a limited sense a feminine face of God.

3.) What are the holidays and rites of passage in Gnosticism?  It depends on the sect of Gnosticism really.  The Sethians have very few.  The Valentinians have more.  That said, most modern Gnostic organizations, (Sethian Congregational Church, Apostolic Johannite, Ecclesia Gnostica, Order of Allogenes, Alexandrian Gnostic etc) have room for a traditional sacramental system.  Many are sacramental, liturgy based high church, while a couple (Order of Allogenes, and Sethian CC) are low church.  Many celebrate the traditional Christian holidays along with several others.  It depends on the denomination and the local congregation.

4.) How can I 'convert'?
It is important to read up on Gnosticism.  Andrew Phillip Smith is having a book coming out for those new to Gnosticism called The Gnostics: History • Tradition • Scriptures • Influence  that I am sure will be wonderful like many of his other books are.  Other books that are good for beginners are Elaine Pagel's books, The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Gnostic Gospels, and The Everything Guide to Gnostic Gospels.  While all of these books have some flaws, for the the most part, they are very good primers.  If you want to undergo a formal conversion, you might write one of the abovementioned groups.  There are several other denominations  depending on your location.  Also I would recommend visiting The Palm Tree Garden Forum.  Many different types of Gnostics hang out there, and it was very helpful when I was first getting started.  I hope this helps.

Sincerely,
Bro. Jay
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6 years ago  ::  Aug 18, 2008 - 5:44AM #3
revtroy
Posts: 33

serpent_goddess wrote:

1.) Exactly, what is Gnostic Christianity?  How is it different than 'mainstream'?

I make a distinction between Gnostic Christianity and Christian Gnosticism depending on which is the primary term.

The only form of Christianity which survived late Antiquity was the orthodox form. "Orthodox" literally means correct opinion/belief. In an orthodox approach the nature of religion is found in maintaining correct opinion/belief. A gnostic approach does not have that focus, its purpose is individual development, both growth and transformation. In other words, in the gnostic approach teachings and myths are not the religion, the effect on the individual is.

When most people think about Christianity they are exclusively thinking of orthodox forms of Christianity, making it very difficult to separate the approach from the content. Many people approach Gnosticism as an alternative yet still orthodox approach, in that their assumptions about religion remain those of an orthodox approach, even while incorporating elements of Gnostic thought.

From a gnostic approach to religion, such elements as the stories and teachings of the religion are secondary. So that a Christian Gnostic follows a distinctly Christian form of liturgy and follows the teachings of Christ, but is open to other forms of Gnosticism such as the Hermetic and Sethian traditions. This openness was present in ancient times and can be seen in the comparisons of Christ to Seth in Sethian texts.

So, I would say that a Christian Gnostic uses Christian forms to follow the teachings of Christ because they lead to Gnosis and liberation. While being open to the use of other Gnostic forms and teachings, as well as, similar forms and teachings.

serpent_goddess wrote:

2.) Is Sophia considered a Goddess or another Form of the Divine?

Sophia doesn't fit into the classical mythological view of gods and goddesses. In the wisdom literature she is both a character and an abstraction, and is seen as an aspect of God, the wisdom of God. She doesn't appear in every Gnostic tradition, and her story evolved over time. However, Sophia and similar figures are understood as being emanations/projections of the ultimate unknowable divinity. So she is wisdom, a character in myth, and a form or emanation of the divine. And it gets more complicated with aspects of Sophia coming in as characters in their own rights. Clearly these stories/myths are not meant to be taken literally.

As the Gospel of Philip says, "Truth did not come into the world naked, but came in forms and images." One might call Sophia a form or image of the divine truth. Not the only one, but a form or way people have experienced the divine. She is not merely a theological idea, but to us a real experienced being

serpent_goddess wrote:

3.) What are the holidays and rites of passage in Gnosticism?

Anciently, they varied according to the form used by the particular tradition. In modern usage the only forms that have been preserved are the Christian forms of the mysteries of Baptism, Chrism, and Eucharist. The main holidays are those of the traditional Christian liturgical calendar, with a change in emphasis and some additions. A liturgical calendar is available at http://gnosis.org/ecclesia/calendar.htm

serpent_goddess wrote:

4.) How can I 'convert'?

Becoming a Gnostic is an individual process. It is a fact, not something conferred from outside. Study and spiritual practice are always required on any spiritual path. One aspect of a gnostic approach to religion is that you are in charge of your own journey. You have to make the journey yourself, but you don't have to do it alone. If there are others in your area that can be of service, then see if their form of practice and understanding work for you. It is a mater of you making use of what they offer, not them making use of you. :) If there are not Gnostic forms in your area, a common difficulty, then making use of a mix of Buddhist and Christian practices may work. Remember, it is a path to be walked, a practice not a creed.

Some Gnostic churches, such as the one I serve in, offer baptism without issues of membership or creed. If it makes sense as you progress, it may be something to seek out. As an experienced mystery Gnostic baptism can be a richly symbolic and very transformative experience, it certainly was for me. But, it should only be undertaken if/when it feels like the right time and makes a deep internal sense.

Hope that helps.

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